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A Rational Advocate
"The most formidable weapon against errors of any kind is reason"
The Case Against Public Employee Unions
By Ben Cerruti

In Wisconsin the government has reacted to the adverse effect on the finances of government by flagrant public employee benefits derived from one-sided collective bargaining. Private sector unions have two adversarial parties at the bargaining table to negotiate a bipartisan agreement. Public sector unions are essentially bargaining with their own ilk. The parties on the other side of the table are derivatives of the political system. The taxpayer is left out of the process.

In addition, agreements that include forced union membership fly against the freedoms provided by the Constitution. It follows that allowing employee union dues to be used for political purposes is a blatant abuse of the system. Taxpayers do not have similar organization funding representing their interests.

Despite the fact that their own pension benefits are far less than most public sector employees they are left with the burden of funding the public sector. Does that sound fair or even viable when State budgets are growing and threatening the possibility of insolvency?

Life expectancy has risen dramatically in our lifetime and pensions based on a ‘defined benefit’ rather than ‘defined contribution’ have resulted in huge unfunded benefits. Certainly public sector employees who are retired or nearing retirement are fearful of losing their benefits if and when reforms occur. It also stands to reason that if they fairly look at the financial predicament that exists in the State and a major effect that the ‘defined benefit’ pension plans have had in its making, they must conclude that reform is necessary. It would seem that any reform should include the elimination of ‘defined benefit’ leaving ‘defined contribution’ as the means for funding. One would assume that the benefits of the present and soon to be retirees would not be affected in such a reform. However, it surely would need to happen for younger employees.

Public sector employees generally enjoy comprehensive peripheral benefits, with little or no cost to them.  Such benefits including coverage in the areas of health care, disability, sick leave, life insurance and the like, that few private sector employees enjoy. They are also not confronted with the type of competition for their respective jobs that exist in the private sector.

Further, they can exert inordinate pressure, including the threat of a strike, with little chance of being penalized or replaced. When thrust on the electorate, the threat of closing down public schools, ceasing to provide government services including garbage disposal and the like, government officials have the tendency to cave in to demands. After all the least path of resistance for them is to dip into the public coffers to satisfy the claims and calm potential public discontent with the results of a strike. Fairness alone dictates that public sector workers should not have such an advantage over private sector workers. 

It should be apparent that the taxes from the private sector provide the funding for the public sector. Any taxes that the public sector pays are just recirculation of the taxes paid by the private sector. Too long have taxpayers been unfairly saddled with the payment for ‘defined benefit’ public sector employee pensions that should have been funded over the years by means of ‘defined contributions’. Allowing the pension plans to exist in their present form will continue to perpetuate that which cannot financially survive. The need for these unions is in question. Perhaps the responsibility for the benefits of public sector employees should return to solely the legislative and executive branches.

Wisconsin’s electorate evidently has provided its Governor and Legislature with the mandate to effect beneficial changes in the conditions of public employment. They should be supported by all freedom loving Americans.


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